Thursday, May 12, 2005

Postcard from the devil's belly

So... Priya atlast finished her assignment @ The Coach leather factory and is back from New Jersey. Before she gets into another round of job hunting, we took a trip to southern california... It is where hell looks beautiful. Death Valley - so called because nothing grows in the valley for it is too hot and receives too little rain fall, is a desert landscape and is adjacent to Nevada. Legend has it that many pioneers have died in the valley trying to find a shorter route to Californian gold mines during the gold rush days. Rumor also has it that some of them resorted to Cannibalism to survive. This valley is surrounded by 11000+ feet mountains. So, you can see snow on those mountains while you are in the desert sand. Also, this spring death valley received large amounts of rainfall that the desert bloom is supposed to be the best in some 60 years or so. We pitched our tents in Stove Pipe wells.

The first day we went to the regular tourist places. Badwater lies 295 feet below sea level and is the lowest point on the western hemisphere. It is so called because the water that is there - due to combination of less source and more evaporation, is so salty that there is rarely any life in that water. But this time around, because of the heavy rainfall, people actually had canoes in the bad water - an awesome sight to behold especially if one has visited Badwater during the summer days. There are sand dunes pretty close to the main visitor center not far from the automobile roads. Some of the dunes had magnificent curves and shadows and some of them even looked like sand tsunamis. Then we visited the devil's golf course, where the landscape is totally different from the one at badwater. The course had a lot of crevices and traps that one misstep would end up in a bad leg twist or broken bone.

The next morning, we took a short hike to mosaic canyon where the wind erosion had carved a beauty of a landscape. Give nature enough time, pressure or both, it would do a wonderful job that would put famos painters to shame. After finishing the hike, we hiked the Ubehebe volcanic crater. Circa 300 to 10,000 years ago Ubehebe volcano blew her stack. So violent was this eruption that the entire volcano went missing. What is left is a little hill with a very big hole. The top of the crater is nearly a half a mile across and is about 800 feet deep. The wind speed was enormous and all the exposed parts of our body hurt from the wind blowing at us.

From there we took the unpaved backroads (It was a good thing we rented a 4X4) to the racetrack. This is a dried river bed (playa) and is so named because the rocks on the playa move mysteriously leaving the tracks behind them(cannot happen if the rocks are moved by wind). We spent the evening there till sunset and dragged our rear-ends to the base camp.

After 2 wonderful nights (we always wish that our stay were one day longer), we tata-bye-byed Death valley and drove towards San diego where we are planning to have hot showers, drink morning coffees and enjoy the comforts of civilization.

For a detailed photo essay, pl. visit Priya's yahoo page and set the slideshow to slow mode.

Blue skies and starry nights,
Sai n' Priya

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